READ AN EXCERPT:
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to make the leap from quirky childhood to fully unleashed adolescence. Out on our porch stoop, waiting for the van, I’d felt the breeze of liberation for the first time in the two months I’d been home. They were coming to take me away, and I was exceedingly glad. Yes, goodbye, Mom, good-bye, Dad, good-bye, Iris, good-bye, Ted, I’m off to Institute Loiseaux. Better known as a home for the cleverly complicated. It’s not a place for everybody. The entrance requirements are rigorous. It takes more than being challenged in the conventional ways, reality-warped, emotionally stunted, mentally fevered, attention-deficient. You gotta be cute to get into Loiseaux. No bobbing heads here, no fatties, droolers, spitters, or snifflers. No predators, delinquents, bullies, tweakers, juicers, or tokers allowed, no matter how delightfully odd.
It does help if you’re an affluent exotic, a mass of psychic knots, a tangle of phobias and compulsions backed by a trust fund. Then even the suicidal and the homicidal are welcome. Hippies and goons, poets and anorexics, twitchers, Touretters, and the vaguely traumatized are all hugged close to Dr. Clara Loiseaux’s pillowy bosom, feeling the warm embrace of the maternal healer, inhaling her distinctive scent of rose petals and licorice.
I rolled down the window, and the whir of tires on the pavement brought back the sound of my trike when I was six, yes, a three-wheeler because I was not blessed with even a minimal sense of balance. After trying training wheels on a regular bike, all geared up with knee and elbow pads and a helmet to protect me in my frequent tumbles, I was given an overgrown child’s contraption with balloon tires and heavy-duty hand brakes. No matter. Rocinante, as Mother named my conveyance, flew like the wind, responding to my frantic pedaling on the uphills, then back, feet out, legs splayed like wings, caroming on the downgrades. Swaddled in heavy corduroy pants and a sweatshirt, I could feel the wind blowing on my face and hear the hum of rubber on asphalt singing in my head. In the years since, I’ve never been able to recapture that sweet momentum, the sensation of rushing so fast that a slight bump on the road would lift me and Rocinante off the ground into a frictionless surface of pure air.